The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) has learnt with sadness of two (2) mineworkers who passed away at Sibanye-Stillwater’s gold operations at Kloof Mine outside Carletonville. According to reports, the incident, which took place yesterday (19 September 2021), relates to heat exposure.
On Saturday afternoon a mine official was reported missing underground at Kloof’s 1 Shaft, on Sunday afternoon a proto team was assembled and went underground to look for the missing person. A proto team is a group of workers trained to perform underground rescue operations.
Later that same day, it was reported that two (2) members of the proto team succumbed to heat exhaustion while searching for the missing person, another two proto team members collapsed and were safely rescued to surface, and it was reported that they were admitted to hospital.
“Our sincere condolences go out to the families and loved ones of these fallen comrades”, said AMCU President Joseph Mathunjwa. “They were courageous and brave to search for one of their colleagues when they were overtaken by the extreme heat underground. We must salute them”, Mathunjwa said.
The missing mine official has still not been found at the time of issuing this statement.
“We pray that the missing mine official can be located speedily. His family and loved ones are in our prayers”, said Mathunjwa
Even though there is technology to locate missing persons underground, whereby all underground workers are linked to the control room, Sibanye-Stillwater had apparently not invested in this technology. There is also technology that can monitor temperatures and noxious gases underground, but it is reported that these systems were not installed by Sibanye-Stillwater.
“As AMCU we are very disappointed when these mines make super profits, but they fail to invest in technology to keep our brothers and sisters safe”, Mathunjwa said. “Sibanye-Stillwater must be held liable for these unnecessary deaths. The NPA [National Prosecuting Authority] must act in terms of section 72 [of the Mine Health and Safety Act] and those responsible brought to book. If there are no consequences and no accountability, these mines will keep on killing our brothers and sisters underground”, Mathunjwa added.
On 11 June 2021 five (5) employees succumb to gas inhalation. At the time, AMCU called for “the urgent intervention of the State President to address this tragic state of affairs‚ by amongst others amending the safety legislation to enable greater rights to refuse in hazardous situations”.
AMCU has consistently called for an amendment to the Mine Health and Safety Act, so that mining bosses who fail to ensure the safety of mineworkers can be held criminally liable.
“We should not be surprised about the lack of investment in safety, though”, said Mathunjwa. “Sibanye-Stillwater is no longer caring about their workers here in South Africa. They are shifting all the profits they made on the backs of African mineworkers to other countries where they are spending billions to buy new assets”, he said. “This don’t-care attitude is also clear in their low-ball wage offers of R250. What can you buy with R250 these days? It just shows how little they value the lives of workers”, said Mathunjwa.
It was reported last week that Sibanye-Stillwater paid a mammoth US$490 million for half of a mining company known as Ioneer’s lithium operations in Nevada, USA.
“We remind all mineworkers of their rights in terms of section 23 of the Mine Health and Safety Act, whereby they can refuse to work in dangerous conditions”, Mathunjwa concluded.
For interviews: AMCU President Joseph Mathunjwa